- Too often, we hold prayer vigils and pray for peace and healing. And then we go home until the next shooting.
- When it comes to justice, fighting the good fight doesn’t always work out so well. But not fighting is so much worse.
- As Methodists, we once embraced the concepts of personal holiness and social gospel. In our DNA is this idea that we care for souls – both our own and those around us.
Photo courtesy of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.
I’m a Southern boy. Grew up in the country. Grew up on a family farm. Grew up fishing and squirrel hunting. Guns were a simple part of life, as natural as books and family antiques.
But with guns came expectations: that you would learn gun safety before you were allowed to shoot, that you would always know what you were shooting at (and what was behind it), and that you always, always took great care when handling firearms.
Along with those expectations came those of another kind from my family and our family church. Those included loving one another, always striving to do no harm, taking responsibility for our actions and when we messed up, doing something to correct the situation.
When we endure yet another mass shooting, we witness the collective grief and outrage, scenes of the anguished loved ones of the victims, and the statements of politicians that something needs to be done. So, yes, something needs to be done. But by whom?
I recently read Joan Chittister’s book “The Time Is Now.” She exhorts all Christians to claim their prophetic role. She tells about a time when she was led through a class session, looking at Bible stories and then imagining she was watching the scene unfold when Jesus would look up at her and ask, “And you? What will you do? Stand there and watch?”
That’s the question with which I’m now struggling, more powerfully than before. What will I do? We wring our hands at the awfulness of these tragedies. We wait for politicians to find the moral character and courage to lead meaningful change. Somebody needs to do something. And we wait for something to happen. We hold prayer vigils and pray for peace and healing. And then we go home until the next shooting. Maybe in Texas. Maybe in Buffalo. Maybe in a school. Maybe racially motivated. Maybe livestreamed. The only thing that isn’t maybe is whether it’ll happen again.
And you. What will you do? Stand there and watch? Some people believe that we fight the battles that are worth fighting. My personal take on this has been that I fight the battles that are worth losing. When it comes to justice, fighting the good fight doesn’t always work out so well. But not fighting is so much worse.
I would love to see Congress act in a united way to pass — and enforce — legislation that is meaningful and effective. But I also know that the reality is that legislation only goes so far. Every law ever passed about illegal drugs, for example, has failed to stop their use. A law has its place, and laws are important. But our own faithful personal and social formation is vital.
As Methodists, we once embraced the concepts of personal holiness and social gospel. In our DNA is this idea that we care for souls — both our own and those around us. We are called to be involved in our communities and to help one another along this life journey we share. I often say that God is the backdrop to everything that I am and do. If that is true, then love is the backdrop to everything that I am and do. And that includes being involved in the lives of those around us.
With those martyrs in Revelation, our cry goes up, “How long, O Lord?” But the vital question for me these days is: What will I do? Our hearts need a new awakening. We know from experience that it is relationships that work — not waiting on politicians, not waiting on new laws, not waiting on somebody to do something. You are who God wants to use right now. What will I do? What will I do in and with my community to make love more powerful than this senseless rage that leads us into such horror, time and again?
A member of the Western North Carolina Conference, Turner is currently serving in the Isle of Man Circuit of the British Methodist Church.
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